WHAT TO PACK WHEN YOU LEAVE TO LIVE IN MAYOTTE
Updated: Jan 28
Following my generic post about Mayotte (Caribou to Mayotte), here is a new article about preparing your trip there. When we were about to leave to Mayotte, I read all existing articles on the internet about what to pack, but then soon realized that half of what I had noted, was useless, either because these articles were too old or because they were talking about Reunion Island. Here I want to share with you what to choose out of all the stuff you might want to take with you when leaving for expatriation in Mayotte.
The contents of your suitcase depend largely on the conditions of your expatriation: are you traveling at your own expense and therefore limited to 30 kgs of suitcase weight per person or is your company paying for a container that will then cross half of the world by sea?
Our move to Mayotte was the first one "sponsored" by the company among all the other international and intercontinental moves done by the Chef and I. We had the right to 20m3 in a container, which was more than enough to pack all our belongings. Knowing that the choice is extremely limited in Mayotte, we bought in advance some furniture at Ikea and basic home appliances and toys for Slatki for the next few months.
WHAT TO BRING ALONG
If you, like us, had a chance to have no weight and space limit, here are a few things you should think of packing with you:
Not only is the choice of furniture and home decorations very limited in Mayotte, as mentioned earlier, but they are also very expensive (as everything else on the island) and not necessarily in your taste. Ikea, as you can imagine, does not exist in Mayotte (by the way, if you are reading this article, but planning to move to Mauritius or Reunion, the same applies to these other neighbouring islands). Therefore, you should think of either bringing along all the furniture you have or, if you are likely to have a larger house in Mayotte, of buying new stuff before the big departure. In the worst-case scenario, you can sell it on the island with no problem.
In Mayotte, without a vehicle, you feel helpless. Public transport is inexistent and taxis are slow as they pick up everyone on their route. Considering that anyways, you need to have a car or a scooter, if possible, try to bring it with you. In case of a personal move from the Metropole, no import taxes apply, whereas on the island all vehicles are about 30% more expensive. Keep in mind though that transporting a car in a container has an extra cost so check with your company whether they are going to carry it. In our case, we didn't have a car in Paris and did not manage to find a good one before our departure, but we were lucky to find a qualitative auto at an acceptable price in Mayotte.
HOME APPLIANCES AND OTHER GADGETS
Mayotte is a tropical island, so all sorts of insects are normal habitants of your house here. If you don't want them to be also the habitants of your food, you'd better keep certain products that you'd normally keep in cupboards, like cereals, sugar and even potatoes, in an electric wine cellar. If you don't have it, no worries, you can still keep them in cupboards, just put what you can in zip locks. Also, because, again, Mayotte, is an island, you never know whether you will find the products you need in the supermarket (it depends on ship and air reassortments), so when you see something you like, you buy a small stock directly. To keep it all, you also need space in a fridge and, above all, a freezer - preferably a big and separate one. Other gadgets you might need are a drying machine for your clothes because it's really humid here (we opted out from it though, it's up to you), a barbeque machine if you have a private terrace or a garden and a coffee machine if you like the black drink (there is even a Nespresso boutique here). In case you, like us, are a fan of yoghurts, but you are not ready to pay 1 euro per plastic pot, just buy a yoghurt machine and make them yourself. Last but not least, if you have a second mobile phone, take it, in case yours get stolen.
SPORTS, BEACH & POOL
Before leaving Paris, we literally bought half of Decathlon's "water sports" department: a small tent for the beach, a cooler, flippers and snorkelling masks, an inflatable stand-up paddle and for Sltaki a rubber ring and armbands for a year in advance. If you dive and have your equipment, take it with you, otherwise, you can rent it at schools. Mayotte is a small island and apart from water sports of all kinds, there is not much to do, so you'd better take a full benefit from it. In Reunion, for example, you also get plenty of opportunities for hiking, but on the seahorse island, hills are not that high and hikes are relatively easy, so unless you already have all the hiking equipment, there is no need to buy anything special. In case you like biking and you have space, take your bike with you as well. Sometimes it is the fastest means of transport on the island.
If you have kids, take with you everything they might need for the next few months, until essentially you come back to wherever you were based before for holidays and could do shopping. There are a couple of kids stores, but there is little cute clothing and the choice of baby equipment and toys is limited, whereas prices are high. In our case (Slakti will be 1 year old and we will not go back to the Metropole until she is 18 months), before leaving we bought a car seat, a few toys, and a tricycle. We also brought with us all her clothes for 12 and 18 months, including a few pairs of shoes and asked Slatki's grandmother to take care of her wardrobe for 2 years old during summer sales. We will pick it up during the winter holidays and she will be sorted for another 6 months.
Of course, you consult temperature averages in the place where you are going to live when packing, but sometimes it is difficult to realise when you are not there yet how to adapt your wardrobe to the local climate. In Mayotte, it is always warm or hot and even during the austral winter, the thermometer doesn't fall below 23 degrees. Very rarely would you need something like a denim jacket, but I think it is still useful to have one. In Reunion the situation is different, and, especially in the mountains, it might be very fresh. Austral summer is the rain season, so it's hot and humid. I was wondering whether I would need some kind of a plastic slicker, but the truth is, when it's showering, you just don't spend time outside (unless you have an open vehicle). In terms of security, privilege shoulder bags that close up entirely and avoid very catchy brands, there is no need to show off here. One last thing: even though you will live in a small town and you will not go out to posh restaurants or theatres here, it doesn't mean you stop dressing up. If you enjoy changing clothes often, wearing heels and flirty outfits, there is no reason why you wouldn't do it on an island. For your information, in Mayotte, there are the following international clothing brands: Jennyfer, Celio (for men) and Tati.
Even though you can find the basics of some most popular brands in supermarkets (i.e. Nivea, Rexona, L'Oreal, etc.), I still advise to bring along a small stock of all the everyday cosmetics and make-up you need, both male and female. In terms of the latter, if you are not used to wearing pads during your moon days, take tampons with you because in Mayotte, as in many other Muslim countries, they are not popular. Bear in mind as well that most of the available cosmetics are dedicated to the local physiology, like curly hair and dark skin. There is a make-up and perfume store chain, a local version of Sephora, called Madora, where you can find most luxury brands, but the prices there are more expensive than in the Metropole.
Last thing that didn't really fall under any of the above categories that I wanted to mention is books. Here in Mayotte there is only one book store that I know, so bring along a few books or, even better, a kindle.
WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND
Even though Mayotte is small, it doesn't mean there is no civilisation here, so there are a few things that you shouldn't be loading yourself with as you can easily find them locally. Again, this is also a question of the conditions of your move and if you have space in your container.
Whereas baby equipment is expensive in Mayotte, all baby necessities are easily accessible and are even cheaper on the island than in the Metropole. It applies to diapers, milk and baby food, unless you need some particular rare brands. For example, we brought along a whole stock of diapers that we could easily find locally for a lower price.
There is no need to carry loads of sunscreens and anti-mosquito creams - you can easily find this stuff here. As far as the mosquito nets are concerned, we brought them from the Metropole although one can easily find them in Mayotte. So far (we are in austral winter), we haven't needed them, but during the rain season, they could be quite useful.
While I was preparing for our trip, I read lots of articles on the internet about what to take, and because they were outdated, I had the impression that I was not only going far but also back in time. People recommended taking stock of candles in case of electricity ruptures or an electric generator for a computer. Whereas the first can happen, for a very short time, even if candles are also sold locally, the second is really from a different century and computers work just as fine in Mayotte as elsewhere.
TO CARRY THROUGH IN THE BEGINNING
You need to be prepared that the arrival of a container is not a science: sometimes there are strikes at the port, sometimes - problems at the customs, and sometimes - as in our case - the container has well arrived, but you have no house yet to open up the boxes. What I'm trying to say here is that even if you have a container, take with you whatever you might need for the next few months in your suitcases. We sent our container mid-April and we will only be able to get what is inside, mid-August, 4 months later. Here is a short list of what we were happy to pack with us: bed sheets, towels, and toys for Slatki. We arrived in the morning, which gave us time to do all the necessary shopping before going to bed (toilet paper, baby food and travel bed for our daughter), but if your plane lands in the evening, think well about all you will need for the first night.
To sum it all up, packing for Mayotte is not an easy task, as there is not much choice locally, but you do find all the basics, even if at a greater price. Facebook version of Leboncoin for second-hand objects is also well developed here. In the worst-case scenario, there is La Poste and you can either have what you need sent to you by your friends and family or you could also buy online. La Redoute, for example, delivers to Mayotte. Make a list in advance and have it all delivered to your place just before the arrival of the movers. In the end, living in Mayotte is some kind of shopping detox where you learn to live without a continuous consumption and believe me, a clothing shopaholic, it's also very pleasant.